2018 Grand Caravan New Car Test Drive
The current, fifth-generation Dodge Grand Caravan has been around since the 2008 model year, freshened for 2011, with Stow ‘n' Go seats improved for 2013. For the 2018 model year, little has changed.
Threatened with extinction, especially after Chrysler launched its far more modern Pacifica minivan for 2017, the Grand Caravan continues to hang onto a tradition-minded corner of the minivan market. While undeniably an old-timer, first launched for 1984, the minivan is helped by a strong V6 engine, spacious interior, and versatile Stow ‘n Go seating.
Value-focused pricing also helps it appeal to budget-minded families. Dodge offers four trim levels: SE, SE Plus, SXT, and GT.
Beneath its stubby hood, the familiar 3.6-liter V6 engine develops 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission sends power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is not available.
Minivans are well-known for their flexibility, and the Grand Caravan is no exception. In addition to standard seven-passenger seating, it provides an appealing array of storage possibilities.
Weighed against its strong points are a couple of notable demerits. Interior materials, for one, look and feel cheap compared to more contemporary minivans. More important, safety testing has yielded some troubling results. Advanced safety technology is in short supply, too. Safety is typically a prominent selling point for family-focused buyers, and the Grand Caravan falls well short of the competition.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2017 Grand Caravan a four-star overall score, with four stars for frontal impact and five stars in the side-impact test. In crash-testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Grand Caravan earned Good scores in each test except one. The small-overlap frontal crash yielded a Poor rating.
Seven airbags and a rearview camera are standard, but not much more in terms of safety. Such advanced features as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warnings are not available at all. A Safety Sphere group includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection, as well as rear parking assist, but it's optional only on the GT trim level.
Grand Caravan continues to be popular, based on familiarity, pricing and the deal. Grand Caravan offers a lot of utility, but it's a dated product, and the Chrysler Pacifica, launched as a 2017 model, is a far more appealing choice.
Grand Caravan SE ($25,995) comes with seven-passenger seating, three-row power windows, keyless entry, heated power mirrors, Stow ‘n Go third-row seat, a rearview camera, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and 17-inch steel wheels. Bluetooth connectivity is part of a Uconnect Handsfree option package. All Grand Caravans can get rear-seat DVD entertainment with a 9.0-inch screen. SE Plus ($28,695) includes the Handsfree package, premium cloth upholstery, second-row Stow ‘n Go seating, alloy wheels, and a Blacktop appearance package. Captain's chairs substitute for a bench in the second row.
Grand Caravan SXT ($31,395) adds leather upholstery, a power driver's seat, automatic headlights, foglamps, power sliding doors, remote start, a roof rack, and gray alloy wheels. Options include heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and Garmin in-dash navigation.
Grand Caravan GT ($34,395) features heated leather seats in the first and second rows, nine-speaker audio, three-zone automatic temperature control, navigation, a performance suspension, and monochromatic exterior. Optional only for the GT, a Safety Sphere package includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.).